Before I turned vegan, like most, I was hooked on cheese. I loved it in all forms, even the smelly blues and especially the squidgy brie’s and gooey mozzarella. I expected that I would find it extremely hard to not eat cheese when I turned vegan, but in fact it wasn’t all that hard for me at all and not once since the day I declared to myself no longer a vegetarian but a vegan, did I eat an animal product again.
This is not to say I did not have cravings, of course I did, but they passed and I’d cure the craving by eating something else that I enjoyed which preferably satisfied some of the attributes of dairy cheese. Creamy pasta’s stood in for macaroni cheese, my ultimate food love pre-vegan and nuts and seeds ground with nutritional yeast made a delicious alternative to adorn gratins, pasta dishes, lasagnes and potatoes.
In the end, the cravings changed. They went from being, in the first few weeks, direct craving for cheese into cravings simply for creaminess, depth of flavour and texture, which could all be satisfied easily and healthily.
I did my fair share of vegan cheese testing, from widely available brands to ordering expensive versions from abroad. Some were better than others but none were ever purchased a second time. The one alternative I had fallen for, in fact before I had turned vegan but was reducing my egg and dairy intake and only using organic products, was a powdered ‘parmesan’ style shaker which used to be widely available in supermarkets and was called Parmazano. This had discontinued by the time I became vegan and I searched high and low for months on end, constantly checking to see if they had continued to make the product again but they still haven’t. I was over the moon to find a similar alternative from Cherub which adds a great savoury, cheesy flavour to soups, stews and pastas.
Nut cheese is also a wonderful thing and I love to make almond feta for omnivorous guests who are always surprised that it’s not dairy feta. But, I wanted something lighter than a nut cheese, with less calories and quicker to make without the need for the heavy machinery. I also wanted a solid cheese that I could slice and grate and that would melt into a gooey, cheesy blanket. I tried to make rejuvelac to make recipes from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese, but I went wrong somewhere and my grains didn’t ever sprout. Then I came across this recipe and lightened it up to make a cheese which ticked all the boxes.
The result is a fast, simple vegan cheddar style cheese that uses basic and easy to obtain ingredients which is comparably lower in calories to both dairy cheese and nut cheese and it tastes delicious, melts, grates and slices. It takes just 15 minutes to put together and can be used as straight away or be left to set. It makes the most realistic toasted cheese sandwiches I’ve had since turning vegan and it amazing in quesadillas. It crisps and browns and makes a delicious, stretchy, gooey pizza topping.
Update 30/06/14: It would appear that different brands and types of milk affect the set of the cheese so I have renamed to slice-able instead of grate-able as it will always set firm enough to slice but may need to be lightly frozen to be grateable.
Ingredients: Makes around 450g
- 500 ml/2 cups unsweetened soya milk (for the best results use a thick, rich milk or creamer)
- 6 tsp agar powder*
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp coarse salt (or 1 tsp fine salt)
- 40g/4 tbsp tapioca starch
- 1 tsp paprika (used smoked for a smoky cheese)
- 30g/1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional, for colour)
- 1-2 capsules of vegan probiotic, emptied or 1/4 tsp pure vitamin C powder (optional)
*6 tbsp agar flakes can be used, boil mixture gently for 15 minutes after adding the flakes, vinegar and salt before adding the remaining ingredients. Carrageenan can also be used (3 tsp powder) and is often sold as ‘vege-gel’ or ‘vege-set’, the cheese will not be as firm as when set with agar but it behaves the same and after a little time in the freezer, grates perfectly.
- Bring the soya milk to a boil over a medium heat.
- Once boiling, remove from the heat and whisk in the the agar powder (or agar flakes or carrageenan), vinegar and salt.
- Mix the tapioca starch in a cup with a few tablespoons of the hot soya milk and set aside.
- Bring the soya milk mixture to a boil again, then whisk in the rest of the ingredients, including the tapioca mixture.
- Cook for 10 or so minutes, make sure it comes to a boil at least once, then remove from heat and stir in the probiotic or vitamin C, if using, then pour into a container to set.
- Leave to harden in the fridge or freezer to make it easier to grate.
High in niacin
High in riboflavin
Compared with dairy cheddar cheese;